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Album Review

Since 2006, San Francisco’s Wooden Shjips have always worn their influences on their sleeve while combining them in new and different ways with each recording. While the first 10" was a slippery and raw garage workout with psychedelic overtones, their self-titled debut on Holy Mountain from 2007 was drenched in sounds that somehow combined the darker sounds of the Doors, droning keyboard darkness, echo-laden and downright spooky vocals, and the feedback control and trippiness of Spacemen 3 via the guitar work of Ripley Johnson. On Dos’ five tracks, most of the same elements are here, but they added still more influences, and this time far more aggressive ones such as the Stooges, Loop, the Telescopes, and Suicide. Check the opener, “Motorbike,” where a feedbacked guitar is immediately set against a primitive guitar and bass riff as waves of sonic mayhem assault the backdrop. There are two chords in the song, played over and over, but the charging, bursting guitar energy, Nash Whalen's atmospheric organ lines, and the Alan Vega-styled vocals push the track right into the red where it stays for its nearly five-minute run. Dusty Jermier’s bass throb opens “For So Long.” It’s propulsive against Omar Ahsanuddin's simple snare and hi-hat figure and vocals that nearly whisper. But it's Johnson’s guitar fills that make the track ROCK; they accent every line, filling every crack as the organ phases and pulses throughout. “Down by the Sea” slows things down a bit and spaces them out. It’s not quite as bombastic, but it's stretched out over ten minutes so that, despite the energy ebb, the sense of pure power comes through in spades. Once again it’s the rhythm section that drives the track with a four-note guitar vamp, echoing Loop’s later work with motorik precision amid the noise. The Doors influence is most plainly heard on “Aquarian Time,” with the hypnotic organ line introducing the tune, but Johnson's six-string is barely contained in its fury as it plays the three-note vamp that creates and then extends the reach into pure rockist excess. Ultimately, Dos seems to capture the more primitive elements in Wooden Shjips' live sound better than its predecessors, but musically it’s simply another step forward in an emergent sound gelling into its own entity.

Biography

Formed: 2003 in San Francisco, CA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

San Francisco's enigmatically named Wooden Shjips play a minimal, droning brand of garage-styled psychedelia with a noticeable '60s Krautrock influence. The band's vocals slip beneath waves of throbbing minimal rhythms, while fuzztone guitar and shrieking organs jump to the foreground. When bandleader Ripley Johnson assembled the group in 2003, he wasn't interested in playing gigs or becoming famous; rather, his original intention was to find a group of non-musicians for the purposes of creating...
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Dos, Wooden Shjips
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